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WJA Announces 2016 Carelle-WJA Grant Winner

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(Press Release)
NEW YORK, NY – The Women’s Jewelry Association has awarded its 2016 Carelle-WJA Grant in memory of Brooke Tivol McGrath, to entrepreneur Melissa Spencer.

Her new company, Spencer Fine Jewelry of Los Angeles, was established in 2016. The designer earned a B.A. in photography from Southern Methodist University, and also has Graduate Gemologist (G.G.) and Graduate Jeweler (G.J.) diplomas from the Gemological Institute of America. Her volunteer work includes serving as event planning co-chair for WJA’s Los Angeles chapter.

Spencer’s new company aims to reinvents the art of traditional jewelry portrait miniatures via its trademarked Spencer Portrait gemstone. The designer uses a proprietary process of projecting an image into a gemstone using natural gemstones, including rock crystal quartz, mother of pearl and diamond. The gems are then set into customizable frames of 18k gold and sterling silver and decorated with diamonds and colored gemstones. Spencer draws inspiration from the Egyptian, Byzantine, and Victorian eras, when hand-painted portraits in lockets were the fashion for nobility and royalty. Her technique reimagines these treasured objects for the 21st century, while maintaining their intention to depict a loved person, animal or art object in an authentic gemstone.

Spencer plans to use her grant money to enhance clients’ ability to customize their Spencer Portraits online, a service that will also support the retailers who sell her line. She’ll also use the funds to invest in other aspects of her business.

"Winning the Carelle-WJA Grant in memory of Brooke Tivol McGrath is a great honor," says Spencer. "The award will fuel the production of a beautifully interactive website, which is the most important next step of my business so that I may best connect with my customers. I have learned that Brooke and I would have shared many passions, including French language studies, travel, and most importantly, jewelry design. In accepting this award I aspire to honor her legacy."

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The $5,000 merit-based Carelle-WJA grant is intended to aid in the establishment of a designer’s business. Eligible candidates must be current members of the WJA, and in their first five years of business. Applicants are required to submit an essay explaining why they deserve the award, placing an emphasis on personal dedication, determination and a positive attitude toward the industry. Brooke Tivol McGrath, who was a driving force in the launch of luxury brand Carelle, unexpectedly passed away at the age of 28, due to a rare blood infection. The grant is funded by Carelle as well as through donations to WJA’s grant and scholarship funds.

The Carelle-WJA Grant is administered by the WJA Foundation, a 501(c)3 corporation. Applications were reviewed by a foundation committee that included Chana Regev, owner of Carelle; Cathy Tivol, owner of Tivol Fine Jewelry; WJA Foundation President Lisa Slovis Mandel, owner of Lisa Slovis Metalsmithing; Lisa Schoening, dean of academic development at FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising) in Los Angeles; and Lisa Kim, owner of Lisa Kim Fine Jewelry, and the 2013 winner of the Carelle-WJA Grant.

To raise funds for next year’s WJA grants and scholarships, WJA is hosting its annual Awards for Excellence gala, on Monday, July 25, 2016, at a new location: the Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center, 311 W 34th Street, New York, NY. In 2015, the event raised $60,000 for WJA grants and scholarships. A raffle will again be mounted in 2016 to raise additional funds for these awards, which invest in the future of the jewelry industry.

At the annual gala, WJA will also present three honorees with awards: Sissy Jones, owner of Sissy’s Log Cabin will receive the WJA Lifetime Achievement Award; Peter Engel, president of Fred Meyer Jewelers, will receive the Ben Kaiser Award; and Ben Bridge will receive the Corporate Award.

In addition, WJA will bestow Awards for Excellence in 10 categories including Design; Manufacturer/Dealer/Supplier; Retail – 15 Doors or More; Retail – Fewer Than 15 Doors; Retail – Non-Traditional; Sales and Merchandising; Marketing & Communications; Editorial Media; Special Services; and Watches. Once again, the nominees for these awards will only discover if they won on the evening of the gala.

To purchase sponsorships or tickets for the Gala visit www.womensjewelryassociation.com/awardsforexcellence.

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